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Tsumi to Batsu: Uchū no Kōkeisha

by Greg Leahy - May 5, 2010, 10:30 am PDT
Total comments: 16

9

Ahead of its European release on May 7, check out our final verdict on the import version of Treasure's follow-up to the N64 action classic.

Nearly a decade ago, as the N64 era drew to a particularly quiet close in Japan, Nintendo published Sin & Punishment, a 3D shoot 'em-up developed by Treasure. Despite scarcely making a dent in the Japanese charts and being denied a Western retail release, Sin & Punishment earned an international cult following off the back of its unique gameplay and Treasure's reputation for creating outstanding action experiences. Nintendo has attempted to rekindle this enthusiasm in recent times, first with the worldwide release of the N64 original on Virtual Console, and now a full disc-based sequel for Wii.

Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Skies (as it will officially be known in Europe) utilises the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to make the unwieldy control scheme of the original vastly more fluid and accessible, allowing Treasure to let its imagination run wild as never before and dial up the action to truly mesmerising levels. Complemented by a well-conceived scoring system and online leaderboards that boost replay value, the result is an incredibly intense and surprisingly sizable game that, despite losing some of the unique character of the N64 original, delivers a shoot 'em-up experience unparalleled on Wii and simply impossible on anything else (at least for the time being).

Playing as one of two androgynous anime scamps named Isa and Kachi, Sin & Punishment 2 tasks you with exterminating all life everywhere in the universe with a "Cannon Sword" (that could probably cut through just about anything except for the series' impenetrable plot), either by gunning enemies down from a distance or slashing them up close. In true shoot 'em-up fashion, there are dazzling barrages of enemy fire to dodge and many giant bosses to take down, but there's no need to worry about one-hit kills or losing accumulated power-ups here—Isa and Kachi have life bars and there are no collectible power-ups beyond health packs, so sheer skill and persistence are the order of the day here.

"On-rails shooters" have become the subject of much conversation (and some consternation) amongst Wii owners, as many publishers have seized upon the Wii Remote's pointer functionality as an opportunity to revive light gun-style games. While Sin & Punishment 2 can also be described as an on-rails shooter, it is most definitely not to be confused with the Ghost Squads and Target Terrors of the world; rather, it has much more in common with Star Fox 64, but with one crucial difference. Aiming your weapon and moving your character are controlled independently, with these functions being delegated to the pointer and analog stick respectively for the Wii Remote-Nunchuk scheme. Additionally, GameCube and Classic Controller support is present along with a Zapper configuration for the plastic gunslingers out there.

While analog purists may appreciate the fact that the dual sticks and button layout of the Classic Controller PRO are particularly conducive to a more elegant traditional control scheme than what the N64's three prongs could offer, these alternative control methods are simply not as responsive as using the pointer. Developers from Treasure have said that certain parts of the game lend themselves better to a traditional control setup, but the online high score tables tell something of a different story, as the icon displayed next to the names of Japan's shooter savants is almost exclusively that of a Wii Remote and Nunchuk.

Using Wii controls, the physical separation of movement and shooting in each hand combines with the ease of aiming via the pointer to make Sin & Punishment 2 far more intuitive and accessible than its "tap-your-head-while-rubbing-your-belly" N64 predecessor, but without compromising the game's depth and challenge. In fact, Treasure has exploited these more fluid controls to up the ante considerably in the action department. Isa and Kachi are frequently assailed from every angle by a daunting number of enemies, but they are more than capable of surviving with the right combination of quick shooting and deft dodging.

Hence, Sin & Punishment 2 feels in some respects like the full realisation of the concept contained in the N64 game. However, Treasure has made some notable design changes and additions that distinguish the sequel as something other than a turbo-charged version of the original. Chief among them is that your character can float in mid-air at any time, and in fact is often forced to do so by the level design, effectively removing the platform elements of the original (though a jump button remains). This radical advancement in aerial manoeuvrability is balanced by the presence of many more mid-air obstacles and enemies to avoid, bringing Sin and Punishment 2 closer still to the Star Fox series (though it also looks a bit like the futuristic Space Harrier sequel gamers might have dreamt of back in 1986).

One thing that hasn't changed is the series' signature melee attack, which is still used to deflect missiles back at enemies with explosive results, but now you can also charge up a special, character-specific attack to blow up several enemies at once. By holding down A on the Wii Remote, Isa can trigger a single large explosion relatively quickly, while Kachi can choose either to target multiple enemies simultaneously or wait significantly longer to focus her shots on a single foe. Once triggered, these attacks cannot be used again for a period of time, helping to inject a tactical element into the gameplay as well as breaking up the monotony of simply shooting everything in sight. For instance, certain bosses have powerful attack patterns that can be interrupted if they are stunned by a charged-up blast, so players should learn which attacks they are able to dodge by themselves and ensure the charge shot is ready when they really need it.

The other major difference between the two playable characters relates to how aiming works. Isa can lock-on to a target by tapping A while pointing at it, but this causes less damage than shooting manually (as in the N64 original). Conversely, Kachi essentially locks-on by default as her fire will remain fixed on an enemy until it dies. Isa's configuration is certainly the more flexible and feels more natural, but Kachi's sticky-aim may prove welcome for some players as they acclimate to the sheer density of the action, because they won't have to worry about tracking enemies or bosses with their crosshair while simultaneously zigzagging across the screen for dear life. With time and practice though, the pointer controls allow you to keep anything in your sights without locking-on.

Sin & Punishment 2 also exploits its duo of protagonists by including a "Tag Play" co-op mode, where one person plays as normal while the other uses a disembodied crosshair to help out (no melee attacks or charge shots). Though one of the two players is clearly taking on a subordinate role here, there's no doubt that they can be genuinely helpful in taking out extra enemies and draining bosses of their health more quickly, so this feature could help some players see the later levels on a harder difficulty for instance, and/or serve as a less overwhelming introduction for people unfamiliar with the game.

In terms of presentation, Sin & Punishment 2 is functional above all else. Some rough textures and angular geometry may be especially apparent in screenshots (though the game has certainly improved in this regard since it was first shown), but the graphics impress in motion thanks to the fluid framerate and the sheer number of objects moving on screen at the same time. There are some very occasional bouts of slowdown, but in general the game runs smoothly such that aiming with the pointer always feels immediate, which is essential given the break-neck pace of the action. The soundtrack, on the other hand, often seems a bit weak juxtaposed with the colossal battles taking place on screen, while the sound effects (including a few old favourites) are effective if not outstanding.

For all of its impeccable technical and gameplay foundations, Sin & Punishment 2 ultimately lives and dies on the quality of its level and enemy designs, and here Treasure has delivered in spades with scenarios equal to its most imaginative work, but on a grander scale than ever before. Though it is easily more than twice as long as its predecessor, Sin & Punishment 2 nonetheless feels densely packed with remarkable set pieces (such as battling giant moray eels while racing down an air tunnel through the Sea of Japan) and incredible boss fights of such diversity and frequency that they could probably populate at least five games by other developers. At the same time, there is some potential for a sense of boss fatigue to set in as the game enters its closing stages, and the pacing is not always as even as it perhaps should be, but the boundless creativity on show helps to minimise this issue. Isa and Kachi may only have a small set of abilities that do not change over the course of the game's seven stages, but you will be amazed at the different ways they are put to the test right up to the finale.

"Testing" is certainly one word that will be used to describe the process of completing Sin & Punishment 2. With its traditional shoot 'em-up sensibilities, there is simply no substitute for concentration, practice, and quick reflexes here. Learning the patterns of some of the later bosses is not unlike taking down one of Punch-Out!!'s cunning Title Defence opponents, but Treasure has also followed suit by implementing frequent checkpoints, a save feature, and unlimited continues to take some of the frustration out of the process. Sin & Punishment 2 is doubtlessly challenging, but it's far more approachable than something like Treasure's intimidating Ikaruga.

An Easy mode (which primarily tips the damage-health balance much more in the player's favour ) is available, and it has almost all the content of the other modes aside from a few extra boss attack patterns. All three difficulty settings are selectable from the start, so shoot 'em-up vets can challenge themselves on Hard mode immediately if they so choose, but the natural progression is to learn the levels on an easier difficulty before maxing out the challenge.

It could be said that "finishing" Sin & Punishment 2 is just the beginning, as it is a high score game in a much deeper sense than was the N64 original, and not just because we now have online leaderboards (which North America and Europe will share, while Japan will remain separate). Treasure has devised a nuanced scoring system that continuously reflects player performance and introduces tradeoffs that change the way you play. Firstly, there is the multiplier system, which boosts point scoring based on how many kills you can rack up without taking damage—hits to your life bar decrease the multiplier, and so make every subsequent kill worth fewer points than if you had remained unscathed. Next, there's the crucial distinction that, for every moment your character has his/her feet on the floor, points are accumulated automatically. Hence, score players will want to spend every second they can on the ground, but doing so leaves them much less room to dodge incoming attacks and thus preserve that all-important multiplier.

These systems combine to create an ingenious risk-reward mechanic that dramatically spices up the pursuit of higher scores, and thus the game's replayability. In fact, it leaves you wondering why Isa and Kachi don't find themselves on terra firma more often during the rather prolonged levels, which can be a drawback for high score play. There are leaderboards for each stage (with separate tables for the difficulty and character selected) as well as the whole game, but even the individual stages are sufficiently long that they may deter people from getting their feet wet. This problem could have been addressed by sub-dividing the levels into quicker high score challenges each with their own set of leaderboards, serving as a more effective entry point for players into the world of competitive Sin & Punishment.

It may have a few shortcomings (perhaps the English language version will shed some light on the bizarre story, though I rather doubt it), but overall Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Skies is a truly outstanding title. It simultaneously makes brilliant use of the Wii Remote and offers deep and challenging gameplay, creating an intense action experience that is unparalleled on Wii or any other system on the market. The appeal of a Treasure shooter is inevitably somewhat esoteric, and most people reading this review will probably have a sense of whether or not this game is for them. However, the intuitive controls, customisable difficulty, co-op play, substantial content, and enhanced replayability of Sin & Punishment 2 should cause anyone sitting on the fence (including those longing for another true Star Fox game) to consider whether now is the right time to opt into Treasure's unique brand of relentless action. You might find that it's one of the best gaming decisions you've ever made.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8.5 6.5 10 9 7.5 9
Graphics
8.5

The visuals may not be rich with gorgeous detail, but Sin & Punishment 2 is nonetheless impressive thanks to its smooth framerate, hordes of enemies, and spectacular screen-filling bosses. The humanoid character designs are generic and unappealing compared with the vast array of fantastic creatures on display.

Sound
6.5

Sin & Punishment 2's musical score is mostly forgettable and sorely lacks impact next to the logic-defying proportions of the game's action set pieces, though it is not poor per se. The sound effects get the job done well enough with an appropriate set of explosions and death squeals for all the destruction going on, while the jury will have to remain out on the voice acting until the English version arrives.

Control
10

Treasure has grasped the challenges and opportunities of Wii controls with both hands, creating a superlative Wii Remote/Nunchuk setup as well as offering every alternative out there short of a dongle to plug in your N64 controller.

Gameplay
9

Sin & Punishment 2 takes the concept of the original to a whole new level of intensity, but also makes it more accessible. New wrinkles such as the different playable characters, charge shots, and clever scoring system add more layers to the gameplay, but the amount of time spent in the air means that the unique quality of the original game is diminished here.

Lastability
7.5

Not only is Sin & Punishment 2 more than twice as long as the original, but a deeper scoring system and the ability to compare scores online do a great deal to enhance the replayability of the longer running time. While some will therefore spend months scaling the high score tables, those who do not develop an affinity for high score play or tackling harder difficulties will find the experience to be much shorter-lived.

Final
9

Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Skies will delight those excited by the potential of what Treasure can do on Wii; with blisteringly fast action, staggering set pieces, challenging bosses, and a slick scoring system, this is Treasure doing what it does best as never before. While features such as pointer control, co-op play, unlimited continues, and customisable difficulty help to expand the game's reach to a degree, Sin & Punishment 2 unashamedly serves gamers with fond memories of the N64 original or the arcade shooters of the past, and they won't find better service than this anywhere else.

Summary

Pros
  • Clever scoring system and online leaderboards boost replayability
  • High octane action runs smoothly
  • Imaginative and spectacular bosses
  • Intuitive, responsive Wii controls
Cons
  • Boss fatigue towards the end
  • Stages could be divided up for entry-level high score play
  • Weak soundtrack at some points
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

GregLover5000May 05, 2010

http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c382/HEFT777/KoolAidManShotgun.gif
I desperately needed for this game not to suck. Huzzah!

NinGurl69 *hugglesMay 05, 2010

FROTH SUCCESSOR

Kytim89May 05, 2010

I played the first game on VC and loved it. I am very interested in the sequel, but money is a little tight right now for meso I will wait and get the game once I get a little money. What are the chances of Sin and Punishment 3 ever coming out based on the success of the sequel?

AVMay 05, 2010

THe first game was what 3-5 hours? So this is what 7-10 hours?


I'm not really into score attack so i'm not sure if that's worthy of $50 . It looks like a fun game but for $30

NinGurl69 *hugglesMay 06, 2010

We can finally lay StarFox to rest.  No more frog pilots and Buffalo Wingmen Chicken.

To me, this game feels nothing like Star Fox.  In Star Fox, when something impacts your ship, you feel a physicality to it and there's an inertia to your vehicle.  In this game you can sprint around every which way and it's hard to tell when you're actually getting hit.

YoshidiousGreg Leahy, Staff AlumnusMay 06, 2010

Sin & Punishment 2 is by no means a perfect substitute for a Star Fox sequel, because it does have quite a different feel thanks to the faster-paced action and the characters being far more manoeuvrable than an Arwing. Also, it obviously doesn't have any "all-range mode" dogfights that put a flight game element into Star Fox 64--this is more of a pure shooter with a much less deliberate feel than Star Fox. However, the two series are fundamentally similar and I can't think of anything closer coming onto the market, so the comparison is still valid.

In terms of sustaining damage, there are broadly two ways you can get hurt--either by minor enemy fire that causes very little damage and stuns you for a fraction of a second (so quick that indeed you might not always notice in the heat of the action), and then there's heavy hits that take away big chunks of health and cause you to fall down for a moment while you're temporarily invincible.   

Killer_Man_JaroTom Malina, Associate Editor (Europe)May 06, 2010

When you cite pacing problems as one of the shortcomings in the design, am I to assume that means there are moments in the levels when there are no enemies and the player is simply waiting for the action to kick in again? That's unfortunate if it is the case.


Regardless of that, I would like to find Successor of the Skies for a good deal somewhere as something to tide me over until Galaxy 2. I could see myself devoting some time to getting high scores - it is great to hear that they successfully balanced the air combat mechanic for that.

YoshidiousGreg Leahy, Staff AlumnusMay 07, 2010

Quote from: Killer_Man_Jaro

When you cite pacing problems as one of the shortcomings in the design, am I to assume that means there are moments in the levels when there are no enemies and the player is simply waiting for the action to kick in again? That's unfortunate if it is the case.

I can think of one very isolated sequence as an example of this, but in general you are never short of things to shoot as the action seldom lets up to such a great extent. The pacing issue I was referring to relates to the bosses being unevenly spaced, in that sometimes you'll get a string of extended boss fights close together (especially towards the end), leading to that sense of "boss fatigue" I mentioned. That wasn't a particular issue for me personally, but for people less crazy about bosses than I am, I can imagine it might get a bit much.

Mop it upMay 07, 2010

I might get this if I find it on sale, $30 would be a good price point for me. I'm not really a fan of shooters but I am curious about this one because of its Nintendo 64 roots, and I never felt like forking over the cash for the original cartridge. My sister likes light gun shooters so she might enjoy playing the part of the disembodied gun of co-op. It's good to know there is an easy mode, but is it actually significantly easier enough for unskilled players to survive through the game?

I'll be sure to pick this up before Nintendo prematurely puts it out of print.

Mop it upMay 07, 2010

Is isn't premature if it sells 1k a month like ExciteBots was doing.

R.I.P. ExciteBots.

NinGurl69 *hugglesMay 07, 2010

On a side note, Zombie Panic in Wonderland supports 2 on-screen players.

YoshidiousGreg Leahy, Staff AlumnusMay 10, 2010

Quote from: Mop

It's good to know there is an easy mode, but is it actually significantly easier enough for unskilled players to survive through the game?

The Easy mode is significantly easier than Normal, as your health bar can absorb many more hits, enemies die much faster under fire, and a number of bosses have simplified attack patterns. Is this easy enough for everyone? That's hard for me to say, though I know that TYP was able to beat the Easy mode of the JPN version and thought it was challenging enough.

LittleIrvesMay 13, 2010

Great review.  But I had one question.  You mention early on that the Wii sequel delivers a fantastic experience "despite losing some of the unique character of the N64 original."  Unless I missed it, I never saw you specify what exactly you meant by this.  Is it the fairly generic humanoid models?  Or some intangible "feeling" somehow absent?  Having never played the N64 game, but wanting to, I'm curious about this unique character found in the original, and whether or not it's worth downloading on VC to experience it (or whether the Wii version's control and overall grandeur trounces it enough to make the download unnecessary).
Man I hope this sells more than 5 copies.

YoshidiousGreg Leahy, Staff AlumnusMay 17, 2010

The unique character of the original S&P that has been lost in the sequel relates to the platforming element found in the first one. For example, there's a sequence mid-way through the first game where you're chasing a boss across a landscape with lots of obstacles and pits which cause you damage, so some platforming skill is required to avoid all the hazards while simultaneously keeping your fire trained on the boss.

This part of the gameplay made S&P feel a bit like a run-and-gun game (such as Gunstar Heroes or Contra) brought into 3D, whereas S&P2 feels more like a pure shoot 'em up because you have the jetpack/hoverboard for flight at any time if you choose, and much of the level design is strictly airborne anyway. In this way, the two S&P games are significantly different so it may be worth your while to play both, but there's no doubt that playing the first one will feel clunky compared with the sequel because of the difference in controls.

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Genre Shooter
Developer Treasure
Players1 - 2

Worldwide Releases

na: Sin & Punishment: Star Successor
Release Jun 27, 2010
PublisherNintendo
RatingTeen
jpn: Tsumi to Batsu: Uchū no Kōkeisha
Release Oct 29, 2009
PublisherNintendo
Rating12+
eu: Sin & Punishment: Star Successor
Release May 07, 2010
PublisherNintendo
Rating12+
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